|Monday 23rd July - Ethiopia - Turmi to Kenya - Koobi Fora
Monday is market day in Turmi. The Hamer are the predominant tribe in the area and they all gather in the village to sell goods to each other and to us the tourist tribe.
We stocked up our vehicle with water and fuel for our drive south into Kenya and then went to the market with the same guide who had taken us to the village last night. It was fascinating. There were people selling tobacco, ochre, beans and grains and then others selling handicrafts jewellery, wooden carved goods, calabashes (decorated water carriers). Out of the hundreds of people at the market perhaps 15 were tourists (including us 5). When we got out of the car we were surrounded by people who wanted to see or touch Keziah and Naomi. After a while people backed off and we had a wander round the market. The sellers werent at all pushy and were happy for us to look at things and pick things up without hassling us to buy anything. We spent almost 2 hours at the market and we bought quite a few things. It was a great way to spend the morning a very unusual shopping experience!
We left the market at about 12.30 and drove off to Omorate to visit the customs post there before going on to the Kenyan border. We didnt tarry in Omorate but it appeared to us very much a frontier town with a Wild West feel about it. Turning off the main road, we drove south on a small track only signposted with some clinic signs this was the road to Kenya. It was immediately apparent that this wasnt a busy road. There was long grass and even bushes growing in the centre of the track. At times we wondered if we were on the road at all. One surprising thing was that after driving into what seemed to be the middle of nowhere we would come across people and then spot a village people living in what really is beyond the back of beyond.
Although we knew from the GPS that we were heading in a generally correct direction, the first time that we were convinced we were on the right road was when we came to the border. There was a building, a flag and a couple of friendly officials who just wanted to shake our hands and have quick glance at our passports. Kenya! It seems hard to believe that we are here weve driven from the UK to Kenya?!
We had thought that we would perhaps stay at Ileret, the first Kenyan outpost and the site of a police compound where it is possible to camp. As we drove towards Ileret we saw fewer signs of habitation. We arrived in Ileret at about 4pm and quickly decided that we didnt want to stay there it made Omorate seem like a nice little town. Ileret seemed like the perfect setting for Mr Echo to pull up with guns blazing in a pick-up! We registered with the police at the police station and were welcomed very kindly by the policeman in charge there who also had a daughter called Keziah. We are apparently the first overlanders to have come through Ileret this month.
The next place where we could stop on the road south was Koobi Fora on the shores of Lake Turkana in Sibiloi National Park, about 2 hours drive south of Ileret. As we drove we saw little dik-diks, hares, a fox with a cub and herds of topi but we saw very few people. The landscape became more rocky and volcanic with less vegetation. Lake Turkana is very large and is a deep green colour the Jade Sea. The road felt remote and isolated and we met just a single car towards the end of our journey. Finally we saw the buildings of Koobi Fora in the distance and we drove towards them feeling delighted to be approaching some sign of humanity again. We arrived at the site at about 6.30.
Koobi Fora is often used by universities as a base for research projects. The area around Lake Turkana is rich in fossils and so draws a lot of interest from fossily-archaeology-type academic people. (You can tell from that explanation that I havent a clue what Im talking about!). Anyway, for the last 6 weeks or so a group of perhaps 40 American students along with their professors, cooks, drivers etc have been staying in Koobi Fora doing some research. There are a few basic bandas at the site but most of the students were camped out in tents.
For the last 20 minutes or so of todays journey Keziah and Naomi were whining for a playpark. Mmmm not much chance of that! However there were a few broken down landrovers parked beside our camp spot and so one of them became the girls playpark for the evening. At bed time Keziah commented I hope there will be a playpark or a broken down car at our campsite tomorrow night.